Rioja to Galicia

Anyone who enjoys a glass of Rioja will surely be familiar with the producer generally known as ‘Cune’.  Their wines are reliable, good value for money and readily available in most supermarkets and many wine merchants.  But, although the wines are sold under the name Cune, the company behind them is actually CVNE (or Companiá Vinícola del Norte de España to give it its full name).

Whatever we call them, their wines aren’t limited to Rioja; they have vineyards and wineries in several regions across the north of Spain (as you might guess from their name).  They produce Cava, reds in Ribera del Duero and one of their newest projects is in Galicia in the far north-west of the country.  I’m a big fan of Galician wines and this is a region that is now becoming rightly fashionable as the source of crisp, fragrant whites from indigenous local varieties such as Albariño and Godello grown on cool, Atlantic-influenced slopes.

But CVNE’s Galician involvement is based further inland, in the more continental climate of Valdeorras, where, apart from a delicious Godello, they also produce an attractive red from the local Mencía grape.

I opened a bottle of the latter recently, sold under the brand name Maruxa with its striking label (Majestic, a bargain at £10.99). 

A red that would appeal to lovers of New World Pinot Noir, this is delightfully floral on the nose and full of lovely, upfront bitter cherry fruit.  Quite food-friendly – we paired it with some pan-fried duck breasts and it worked really well – but this is a wine that opens up and develops in the glass over time so is well worth decanting.

So far, the Valdeorras region and the Mencía grape variety are less well-known than Galicia’s whites but, on the evidence of this bottle and others I have tasted previously, wine lovers looking to explore new ground and different flavours should certainly be seeking out these flavoursome local reds.

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Nelson: Small but Diverse

My wife and I loved New Zealand wines even before we were lucky enough to visit there a few years ago.  Of course, we dropped in at a few vineyards as part of our sightseeing (and enjoyed plenty of tasting!).  But New Zealand is a larger country than many in the UK realise and, although we managed to get to several of the more famous wine regions, Nelson, in the far north-west corner of the South Island, is one we missed.  That is a shame because, even though it’s one of the smallest of the regions and dwarfed by Marlborough, its better-known neighbour to the east, its warm, maritime-influenced climate and poor, stony soils are ideal for vine growing.  And, despite its size, it’s home to as diverse an array of different grape varieties as you’ll find anywhere in New Zealand. 

One local company, Waimea Estates, alone, grow, at least 9 different varieties and Majestic Wines often have a selection of their bottles in stock.  I’ve particularly enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc and Gruner Veltliner in the past so, when I saw the same firm’s Albariño on the shelf recently (£10.99), it was an obvious buy.

Albariño is a white variety native to Galicia in north-west Spain and to Portugal (where it is known as Alvarinho) and it’s only in the last decade or so that it has started to be planted more widely.  That’s a trend I hope will continue. Waimea’s example is beautifully clean and fresh with lovely floral aromas, peach and melon flavours and a long, attractive finish.  Drink it as an aperitif or team it, as the Galicians and Portuguese would, with grilled sardines, but it’s more versatile than that and I’m sure it would work well with a wide range of fish dishes.

I can only remember tasting one bottle of Albariño from New Zealand previously – an equally delicious example from Stanley Estates in Marlborough – but this quality variety clearly thrives in the conditions there and I’m looking forward to it becoming a common sight in vineyards across the country.